3 Weeks to Agile Marketing Success: Lessons from a Product Manager

4 minute read

Upland Admin

Marketing friends, it’s time for some real talk.

These days, content is at the center of marketing and fast-paced tactics like newsjacking are regularly used to drive traffic, thought leadership, and social love with real-time content. Pair these shifts with social media channels, which require brands to be “on” 24/7, and you’ll see why a flexible approach to marketing has become more important.

Enter agile marketing, the marketer’s version of—you guessed it—agile development.

If you’ve been trying to push this transformation, you may be asking yourself if it can really work for you—or any marketing team for that matter.

After starting my career in product marketing, I’ve been in product management for more than 10 years. And I can tell you, since the Agile Manifesto was humbly constructed in 2001, it hasn’t always been a walk in the park for agile software development teams.

But going agile is worth it, and can be straightforward if you consider the right reasons for your marketing team to adopt an agile philosophy.

Now, all the classic agile-isms are good enough reasons to be intrigued. The goal, according to Jim Ewel, agile marketing evangelist, is “to improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of the marketing function.” Basically, to be faster, more relevant, and more effective than your competitors. Nothing wrong with that.

Going agile means delivering value and doing it predictably. 

But, as marketers, you already understand the power of adapting to changing market needs, responding to news quickly, getting sales that key piece of content, and measuring ROI. So what’s different about going agile than what you’re already doing? Consider this: Going agile means delivering value and doing it predictably. 

Here are some ways to cut through the hype and experience the benefits of agile in 3 weeks.

Stop Obsessing Over a Perfect Framework

A large percentage of an agile transformation is spent debating the tactics. How long should our sprints last? What should our process be for grooming a backlog? What is the best estimation scale?

Planning discussions get so complicated that teams tire and fall back to a modified or agile-like approach. Sound familiar?

If you are deadlocked, follow this recipe:

  • 1-week sprints
  • 1 whiteboard (with lots of stickies)
  • 1 “Product Owner” to set priorities

Or, follow your own recipe, but don’t spend more than a few days developing it.

Spend Less Time Estimating 

You will be tempted to spend a lot of time figuring out the right scale and debating how to “point” your efforts. This means assigning a number value, or “point,” to a specific project. Each project is called a “story.” The higher the point value, the more time-consuming or complex the story. For marketers, a story can be a blog post, website copy, a SlideShare presentation, or building out a campaign timeline. Even experienced teams can’t estimate perfectly, so don’t waste your time trying to achieve absolute perfection.

Pick a 3- or 4-point scale and don’t spend more than a few minutes pointing a story. Yes, some 2’s will take 3 days, and other 2’s will take 2 hours. It all works out in the end.

Pull, Don’t Push

Once your stories are in the backlog and pointed, let your team members pick the most important story from the backlog. Resist the temptation to assign projects!

Taking on something new will grow the abilities of your team, force senior marketers to teach younger team members, and will free up a team member to develop content instead of project managing. Agile teams are miraculously self-organizing and happy.

Measure This One, Easy Thing

This is where the 3 weeks comes in. Look back to your last 3 weeks of content creation to calculate an average number of units of value you delivered. It should be easy if every story is pointed. Just add up those points.

Delivering predictable value is easily understood by CEOs, sales, and everyone in between.

A team that can consistently deliver value week after week celebrates production and efficient execution. Sure, there are lots of other metrics that matter to a marketing organization. But delivering predictable value is easily understood by CEO’s, sales, and everyone in between.

And that brings me to my last tip…

Promote and Celebrate Success

Surprisingly, marketers are notoriously shy about self-promotion. So fire off that email heralding the value you delivered last week and how it was 25% more than the week following.

And then go take the team out bowling. Because, congratulations!  You are agile!

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